The History of Nationals Playoff Heartbreak and Breaking the Trend


As I watched game four of the NLDS, judging from my nerves alone one might think that it was a close game and series, while in reality, the Nats were preparing the sweep the Cardinals in just four games and had scored seven runs in the first inning, finishing the game 7-4. My nerves were at an all time high during the last two innings as in the top of the 8th, the bases became loaded and it felt as if the possibility of the win was slipping away from us. This continued in the top of the 9th, despite only three batters facing Hudson in the inning, I was still on the edge of my seat for each and every pitch, praying that the Cardinals did not get on base with the possibility to score. 

It was not just me, as I look at my family around me, I realize that they were feeling the same nerves that I was, as we were not celebrating any sort of Nationals victory until the final out of the game, and even about 30 seconds after to make sure the victory was real. 

My nervousness, despite a large lead, also affected me in Game 2 of the World Series, as despite the Nationals leading11-2 in the eighth inning, I still was on the edge of my seat waiting for that final out before celebrating any sort of Nats victory. 

These feelings as a Nationals fan come from the years of disappointments that the Nats have suffered, specifically in the postseason. While I have been a fan of the Nationals since I was young, but it was in 2012 when my love for the Nationals grew much stronger and I began full emotionally involved in the team. It was a great season, with the Nationals not only winning the division, they also had the best record in baseball. 

So, going into the postseason in 2012, confidence in the Nationals to do well, was very high, with predictions that the team would make it far. But heartbreak quickly ensued, as the Nationals lost to the Cardinals, who were a wild card team in the NLDS. This trend of heartbreak would continue.    

The next heartbreak came for me and many other fans was 2014, where the Nationals had a similar season to 2012, they won their division and was first in the National League. Still, they would go onto lose to another wild card, the Giants. Adding insult to injury, the Giants would go onto win the World Series that same season. 

At this point I had grown this attitude that the Nationals just were not good in the playoffs, and if success was found in the regular season, I don’t expect the same results in the postseason. This continued as the Nationals lost to the Dodgers in the 2016 postseason and to the Cubs in 2017. Still, never making it out of the NLDS. 

Going into the 2019 season, I was excited for baseball to be back, but had no expectations in terms of going far in the playoffs, almost as if I have built up a wall after so many heartbreaks in the postseason. But, this season almost seems to be flipped from previous Nationals seasons. While the Nationals struggled in the regular season, the team began to gain momentum closer to the end of the season, and ended with the wildcard spot. 

The Nats have been so much fun to watch this postseason, and I have really enjoyed watching every one of their games, but due to the Nationals history in the playoffs, every game has left me uncertain and nervous throughout. 

After so many years of heartbreak, being a Nationals fan has changed my attitude. It has shown me that, when it comes to the postseason, the regular season is thrown out the window, as doing well in the regular season in no guarantee that success will come in the postseason. 

This season, more than ever has taught me this, the Nationals did have a rough start to this season, yet have been so strong in the playoffs. As a team that was seen as sort of an underdog coming into the playoffs, the Nats won the wildcard game, swept the Cardinals, came back against the heavily favored Dodgers and are now headed home with just 2 wins away from the World Series title. While, I still have my guard up and will be sitting at the edge of my seat for each game, this season represents for the Nationals and their fans, positive change to come to this team as they are no longer slowing down in the playoffs.